The Dragon's Den
February 06, 2005
I'm not a fan of the five or six stringed bass. Just like I'm not fond of the hydrogen bomb. I think the human race can do enough damage with the atomic bomb, thank you very much. In the same way, bassists should be able to anchor the music and create melodies with just four strings. Even when Bela Fleck and The Flecktones bassist Victor Wooten creates flurries, they serve the band's anxious music. As a result, his finger dancing is elemental. But, I've seen the five or six string fall into the hands of musicians who used its wider range of tones for no good reason. They produced superfluous notes that cluttered the music. After Grilly Biggs bassist Matthew Golombisky's six string performance Sunday night at The Dragon's Den, my phobia is waning.
Golombisky received a B.A. in Jazz Studies and is persuing a M.M. in Composition. Since Grilly Biggs played improvised Avant-Garde Jazz/Groove music, it made sense that Golombisky brought his big gun in case he needed to cover more ground than a four string could afford him. Luckily, Golombisky kept his lines simple. He copied the sparse melodies of vibraphonist Matthew McClimon, or he created a quick succession of notes that drummers Quin Kirchner and Milton Villarrubia III built on with swift snare to tom-tom repetitions.
Grilly Biggs were masters of space. There wasn't a time when MCClimon played alone, but Golombisky stopped playing completely or just used his effects pedals to create psychedelic textures. No matter how many members were playing, Grilly Biggs didn't lose the rhythm. Occasionally, a drummer dropped out to give cymbal color or provide percussion while the other drummer kept a steady beat. A steady repetitive rhythm that allowed the drummers and McClimon to experiment was common. The band changed it up within their fifteen minute songs to keep things fresh, but the meter never changed. It was fun to watch the drummers play off each other and find endless ways to work a beat, but this was also the one problem I had with Grilly Biggs. Their constant finagling took my attention away from the melody.
The instrumental, local group played original music that stemmed from a base groove. Golombisky's droning bass also encourgaged a spacey sound, while his supersonic strumming created the hint for a freakout. A wonderful caucophony.
The Dragon's Den was half-full, and the crowd doled out a large amount of applause for the band. For some enjoyable experimentation, check them out.